Chili Cook-off

Last December, local bar Hope and Anchor, hosted a chili cook-off for charity. Categories included carnivore and herbivore for a chance to win cash prizes of $50 and $100. Even though I had never made chili from scratch, I thought I would enter anyway. How many vegetarians could possibly enter in El Paso?

One of my favorite resources for recipes is the Epicurious site. It has a great amount of recipes from all of the Conde Nast publications like Bon Apetit and Gourmet (R.I.P.). I love the great variety of recipes and the inclusion of comments from actual chefs. After perusing many chili recipes, I found one with some of my favorite ingredients: beer, black beans, and lime sour cream. It’s a recipe that revamps traditional chili in a fun way, yet still remains true to the original.

When I got to the cook-off, I was pretty nervous because there were about 5 other herbivore entries. I think there were over 10 entries in the carnivore category. After everyone had set up, bar owner Jim Ward announced that everyone could buy a hotdog or a paper plate for $2 to sample any and as many of the chilis. Can you believe that? $2 for a veggie dog and chili! There were two chilis that really stood out to me. I apologize for not remembering more about the entries and their ingredients (I should have written about this sooner!). One of them was really, really, really, spicy, but a good traditional chili flavor was able to shine through all of that heat. The other one was made with organic ingredients, had a lot of veggies in it, and had a nice stew-like consistency.

The most nerve-wracking part was plating the judges’ samples, and waiting. Unfortunately, we never saw the judges or knew who they were, although I did hear that one was the chef from Ripe. It was finally time for them to announce the winners. I couldn’t believe that I had actually won first place! Hope and Anchor’s first annual chili cook-off was such a great experience for me, because it was for charity, included vegetarians, and took place in a really cool setting.

 Do you have any favorite chili brands or recipes?


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